• Wednesday Apr 21, 2010

    Cruz Azul holds off Pachuca 2-1 for first-leg victory

    MEXICO CITY - Cruz Azul scored on a pair of first-half defensive gaffes by Pachuca and won the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League title series 2-1 Wednesday night, looking to end its futility streak in tournament finals.

    Emmanuel Villa capitalized on a giveaway by Gregorio Torres and converted in the 20th minute and Carlos Rodriguez deflected a cross from Maximiliano Biancucchi inside the near post for an own-goal four minutes later, enough to send La Maquina to next week's second leg in Pachuca with a lead.

    Cruz Azul, which has lost its last three trips to the Mexican league finals as well as last year's CONCACAF Champions League title series to Atlante, will look to complete the victory next Wednesday.

    "We scored goals on their mistakes and finished the first half well," Cruz Azul manager Enrique Meza said through a translator. "We then stopped moving the ball and doing the things we need to do. In the end, I am not happy because I didn't like my team today. With the 2-1 advantage if we think we've won, we will be very mistaken."

    Villa put Cruz Azul ahead after goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona sent a goal kick into the Pachuca half. Sprinting toward his own goal, Torres tried to flick it to the far side with the outside of his right foot, but failed to get enough pace on the ball, allowing Villa - running down the middle - to intercept 30 meters from goal.

    Cruz Azul doubled the lead when Biancucchi streaked down the right side and unleashed a cross that Rodriguez - running toward his own net - deflected at the near corner of the goal box and redirected it just inside the right post.He dribbled into the area and beat Pachuca keeper Miguel Calero easily with a right-footed shot inside the right post.

    Los Azulinos finished with 10 men and will have to play the second leg without Julio Cesar Dominguez, who was ejected in the 79th for a slide tackle that resulted in an extended leg into the groin of Pachuca's U.S. midfielder Jose Torres.

    The early deficit forced Pachuca manager Guillermo Rivarola into a first-half change, inserting Damian Manso for Champions League scoring leader Ulises Mendivil in the 32nd minute.

    Pachuca was able to mount more of a challenge, and created its best chance less than a minute before halftime when Damian Alvarez took a ball from Manso and spun to unleash a left-footed shot from the edge of the goal box that Corona was able to block with a reaction save of his right hand.

    The victory was Cruz Azul's seventh in eight games in the Champions League. It has lost only once, 1-0 to Pumas in the semifinals, since falling to Atlante in the finals of last year's competition.

    Both teams rested many of its regulars in last weekend's Mexican Clausura matches. Cruz Azul was beaten 4-1 by Puebla to remain seventh overall while Pachuca was held to a 1-1 draw by Toluca.

    Cruz Azul was without midfielder Gerrardo Torrado, on training duty with the World Cup-bound Mexican national team, as well as midfielder Christian Gimenez, who was cup-tied having played the Group Stage with Pachuca.

    Rivarola inserted Juan Carlos Cacho for Edy Brambila in the 60th, enabling Pachuca to dominate possession and create more chances.

    It was able to finally convert in the 69th when Raul Martinez's cross into the area deflected off the head of teammate Edgar Benitez and glanced off the head of Cruz Azul defender Julio Cesar Dominugez. It continued to the far side of the box, where Alvarez was waiting to pounce.

    The goal was the first allowed by Cruz Azul in eight games at home this season in the Champions League.

    "The result is not what we wanted but is not bad," Rivarola said. "We were able to come back and therefore I am happy. Its a 180-minute match and there's 90 minutes left.

    "We committed two key errors but I am happy with the team. The team played a great second half. "

    Cruz Azul twice missed chances to add insurance goals in second-half injury time. Villa put a right-footed flick off the left post in the 92nd minute and Horacio Cervantes headed a corner kick off the opposite post a minute later.

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